Thirukkural and Buddhism Part 2

Ramalingam Shanmugalingam AppuArchie at AOL.COM
Sat Feb 12 15:02:42 UTC 2000


Tirukural author Jain or Buddhist?
By D. Amarasiri Weeraratne

Bhagavat is a term which is applicable to both Buddha,
and Mahavira the founder of Jainism. Adi-Buddha is a
term familiar to Mahayana Buddhists, while in Jainism
and Hinduism there is no parallel human personality to
whom the attributes of Adi-Bhagavat given by
Tiruvalluvar in the first ten verses are applicable.
Buddhist view - Why do Buddhist scholars think that
Tiruvulluvar was a Buddhist? It is well-known that
Buddhism and Jainism were the leading religions in
South India before they were ousted by the Saivaites.
Kanchipura and Kaveripattanam were Buddhist
strongholds. The great Buddhist commentators
Buddaghosha, Buddhadatta, and Anuruddha and Dharmapala
were South Indians. Buddhist poets were foremost in
Tamil literature during the hey-day of Buddhism. The
Tamil grammar Virasoliam, Kundalakesi, and Manimekhala
are well-known as the works of Tamil Buddhist scholars
in the service of the Dharma. Tiruvalluvar lived
during this time. So who is the Adi-Bhagavat whom he
adores and worships at the outset?
All Buddhist know and worship Buddha in their daily
devotions as 'Bhagava' - Blessed one. The Mahayana
concept of Buddha is a metamorphosis of the historical
Buddha, the Indian teacher of the 5th century B.C.
They have deified him and made him Adi-Buddha or
Adi-Bhagava an emanating from the primordial source of
the universe. The idea is an adoption from the Vedanta
to bring in line Buddhism with the Vedanta philosophy
and so bring about a synthesis which is really a
corruption of the apostates. The Jains too call their
teacher Buddha, Jina, Arahat and Bhagavan. So Jains
may well contend that Tiruvalluvar was a Jain with
some justice. But we are not aware of any place where
the Jains refer to Mahavira as Adi-Buddha or
Adi-Bhagavat. As mentioned earlier the Adi Buddha
concept is a Mahayana corruption out of tune with the
teachings of the Buddha in the Pali Canon.
The Jains never deified their teacher nor corrupted
his human image. Therefore the view of most Buddhist
scholars is that the salutations to Adi-Buddha in the
Tirukkural are adorations to Gautama Buddha in his
Mahayana setting.
In order to see whether we can get any clue to
Tiruvalluvar's religion it is necessary to study
verses 2 to 10 of the Tirukkural. These are the only
lines however indecisive, ambitious, or vague they may
be which provide the guidelines.
Relevant texts
2. "What is the use of mastering many sciences and
arts if one worships not the lotus-feet of him who has
mastered the way to liberation from Sansara."
That is to say he worships a person who has mastered a
way-not an inanimate force without attributes of good
or evil-as is the case is with Nirguna Brahman of the
Vedanta. Buddhists know and understand these lines
perfectly as the way all Buddhist poets have referred
to Buddha in our literature.
3. "Those who seek refuge in the one who walked on
lotus-flowers will enjoy happiness in the world free
from suffering for a long time".
4."Those who worship the lotus feet of him who is free
from greed and hate will never be born in woeful
5. "He who engages himself in praising the virtues of
the Blessed one will enjoy the benefits of his good
6. "He gave up the way of sensual pleasantries. He
taught the Noble Straight Way. Those who tread this
path will enjoy much happiness and live a long life".
7. "It is only those who worship and adore his lotus
feet that will overcome their cares and tribulations.
Others will not achieve this happiness".
8. "It is only those who adore him who is full of
virtue and goodness that can cross the sea of Sansara.
Others will not succeed."
9. "Truly the head of the person who worships not the
holy feet of him possessed of Eight Virtues is good
for nothing. It is an empty head".
10. "It is only those who follow and adore the
lotus-feet of the Great Being that can cross the ocean
of Sansara and see the further shore."
Even Buddhist schoolboys know the legend of the Buddha
is depicted as seated on a lotus. So the reference in
verse 3 should be to the Buddha.
The reference to the "Noble Straight Way" is the Noble
Eightfold Path of the Buddha which is referred to as
"Ukukujo name so maggo" in the Sutras. This means
"That path is called the straight path. So the
reference at verse 6 is to the Noble Eightfold Path
which is the sum and substance of Buddhism in
Tiruvalluvar's teachings on Ahimsa and Caste are a
re-echo of the Buddha's teachings. The Bhagavad Gita
sanctions violence in war. It is a divinely ordained
duty of the warrior caste. The Tirukkural teachings on
Ahimsa are clearly Buddhist or Jain. Animal Sacrifice
was condoned in the Vedas.
On the question of caste the chapter is a re-echo of
the Buddha's teachings in the Vasala Sutra.
Here the scale are tipped in favour of Buddhism,
whereas on several other teachings the scales are
evenly balanced between Buddhism and Jainism. Thus in
the evaluation of the evidence for Buddism and
Jainism, Buddhism emerges as more acceptable as the
likely faith of Tiruvalluvar.

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